Whether you consider Julian Assange, credited founder of the online organization called WikiLeaks, a terrorist or a journalist, there's no denying that he's left an indelible mark on international cultural consciousness - or that when the man goes after someone, he gets results. (Of course, that doesn't make him less of a lightning rod for controversy.)
In the new film The Fifth Estate- a label for the alternative, online media of today and the self-styled citizen journos who make up its membership - director Bill Condon focuses on specific eras in WikiLeaks' lifespan while also examining Assange himself, illustrating what drives him to fight for social justice and governmental transparency.
Which got us thinking: what if Assange put his talents to use uncovering the truth behind the secret agencies that populate our favorite genre stories? While there are many more covert bureaus and shady cabals than can be captured in one list, these ten represent the secret movie agencies we want Wikileaks to expose the most.
The Syndicate (The X-Files)
If the name alone doesn't ring a bell, then that means the nicotine-addicted man at the center of the Syndicate has done his job. But for longtime fans of the sci-fi horror serial The X-Files, neither the Syndicate nor the Cigarette-Smoking Man need any introduction.
While the Syndicate didn't operate solely based on the say-so of William B. Davis' iconic villain (never caught without a Marlboro in hand), he certainly played a huge role in the conspiracy's endeavors toward covering up the truth about the existence of alien life. If The X-Files teaches us anything, it's not to mess with the cold, ruthless men that make up the Syndicate - unless you're someone like Assange.
Those of us who have seen Chris Carter's show to its completion know exactly what kind of dirt WikiLeaks would dig up on these guys - the secrets of the black oil, experimentation with xenotransplanation, and so much more. Fox Mulder would be impressed.
MIB (Men In Black)
Here we have a totally different breed of "men in black" than that which the Syndicate represents: J, K, and their MIB colleagues use the same ends (deceiving the populace about the presence of extraterrestrial life on Earth) to justify completely different means. Put another way, they're the friendlier men in black. (Well, K's kind of a grouch.)
But Men in Black's titular agency may be the perfect entry on this list for reasons of ambiguity. No doubt, we'd all be in some deep trouble without the MIB around - in fact, we'd all be dead, based on the most recent film - so we should be grateful for their existence, but does that make hiding the truth from us okay?
Assange most likely would say no, and he'd use every trick he knows to take the MIB public. Of course, they have a few of their own tactics for foiling nosy folks like Assange, but if he can evade capture at the hands of the military industrial complex, blocking a neuralyzer shot should be easy.
The Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense (Hellboy)
Here's another one that we might not necessarily want Assange to get his hooks into - but if he got the chance, he'd certainly leap at it. A wing of federal power that's tasked with keeping the paranormal activity of the planet under wraps and out of the view of the masses? That sounds like it would be right up his alley.
Or, then again, maybe not. Maybe just an hour or two spent trolling Hellboy's Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense's resource databases would be enough to make him think twice about messing with people who keep eldritch gods, megalomaniacal prophets, and xenophobic Elves at bay.
But probably not. Still, the above trio makes for a pretty daunting brick wall; neuralyzers are one thing, but Hellboy, Abe Sapien, and Liz Sherman are another entirely. That might not stop him from trying, but Assange would have his hands full getting past the BPRD's most iconic agents.
CONTROL (Get Smart)
One of the running themes here is that Assange and WikiLeaks are equal-opportunity whistle blowers; if you operate behind closed doors, it makes no odds to them whether you work for the betterment of mankind or for your own personal gain.
CONTROL, of Get Smart notoriety, falls under the latter category, but considering exactly what it is that CONTROL does on a daily basis, they'd be a prime target for Assange's curiosity. Shouldn't the people be informed about the dangers presented by KAOS which threaten the continuation of their very existence?
That's to say nothing about all of the neat gadgets CONTROL agents have at their disposable, like Maxwell Smart's shoe phone, his tie phone, his cigarette lighter phone - the dude has a lot of phones - as well as inventions like truth steam and the cone of silence. More than anything, maybe we just deserve to know that our safety is in the hands of incompetent buffoons and crotchety old men.
Top men (Raiders of the Lost Ark)
After a climax that involves furious revenants, melting faces, and exploding heads, Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark comes to a close with a fina shot of a warehouse interior that's crowded with crates as far as the eye can see. One of them contains the Ark of the Covenant; what about the others?
Assange would almost certainly ask himself the exact same thing, especially since there's little and less said about the "top men" by Army intelligence - or the building where they store prizes like the Ark. It's hard not to wonder what other artifacts the Army has tucked away, especially considering the countless marvels Indy stumbles upon in his adventures.
Which is why Assange would gravitate toward this stash of archaeological goodies like a moth toward a flame. Boxes whose contents are capable of wreaking the havoc we witness in Raiders' most iconic scene certainly count as something that, in his view, people need to know about.
Blackbriar/Treadstone/Outcome (The Bourne Franchise)
Alright, yes, Jason Bourne made mincemeat out of Blackbriar and Treadstone in the film series named after him, and neither Outcome nor LARX are in great shape following the events of The Bourne Legacy. To date, government super soldiers in this franchise have mostly gone the way of the dodo.
But that doesn't mean Wikileaks and Assange wouldn't take the opportunity to dethrone these operations and bring them crashing down themselves. Whatever good Jason and his successor, Aaron Cross, might have accomplished during their tenures, there's no denying that the programs that sired them are unethical, to say the least.
It says something that each Bourne film goes out of its way to drive this point home - in fact, that dichotomy informs the action in every single one - so it seems natural that Assange would ally himself with Jason and Aaron to hold Blackbriar, Treadstone, Outcome, and LARX responsible for their crimes.
Arvin Sloane's impassive, unreadable mug may be the best representative for the false CIA black-ops division known as SD-6, but it hardly matters who puts a face on this particular cell of the Alliance of Twelve: they're the real bad guys, and someone needs to take them down.
Thank god for Sydney Bristow and Michael Vaughn, then (and, sure, Jack Bristow, too) - they're responsible for SD-6's destruction in Alias' second season. But that doesn't mean Assange wouldn't have wanted a piece of the ruthless organization for himself.
Amusingly, there's a good chance he'd go after SD-6 without first realizing their duplicity; Sydney only learns about its true nature after her father comes right out and tells her. The greater irony, though, may be that by crippling SD-6, Assange would probably be treated like a real-deal hero instead of the more contentious figure he's generally seen as in popular consciousness.
S.H.I.E.L.D. (The Avengers/Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.)
First course of action if WikiLeaks ever comes a-knocking on the doors of the Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement, and Logistics Division: keep calm and call Coulson.
Then again, they might try to wiggle their way out of trouble by faking his death. (Again.) That little deception alone may be enough to dissolve any sympathy we might have for Marvel's iconic espionage group in the event that Assange tries to publish classified S.H.I.E.L.D. cables on his website, but let's face it - the team is hiding quite a few whoppers from the world.
That list doesn't include the Avengers, mind; everybody knows about them following Loki's failed attack on Manhattan. But it does include Tesseract and Extremis technology, and Assange would naturally be keen to blow the lid off their existence as well as how dangerous they can be.
Why does everything weird have to happen in Wales? That might be the most valuable question Assange would answer by investigating Torchwood, the cleverly monikered institute spun out of Doctor Who; of all the places in the world for a time rift to crack open and pop out all kinds of beasties, Cardiff may be the unlikeliest.
But that's what makes Torchwood, the show, so special: location. Who makes a sci-fi show and sets it in Wales, of all places? The setting gives the series its flavor, but besides that, why wouldn't WikiLeaks develop interest in a hush-hush band of alien hunters and paranormal investigators tucked away in the country's rolling hills and valleys?
They may keep the world safe from weevils - not the tiny, herbivorous beetles, but the man-sized, flesh-eating monsters - cannibals, cyborgs, alien sleeper agents, ghosts, time travelers, and so much more, but that won't keep them safe from Assange's piercing brand of journalism.
The Facility (The Cabin in the Woods)
This one may be cheating a little bit - nobody actually spills the beans on who's behind the daily operations at the facility that serves as the plot generator for Drew Goddard's The Cabin in the Woods. The whole endeavor could be privately run for all we know.
But there's definitely a bureaucratic, conspiratorial vibe to what Sitterson, Hadley, and their hapless cohorts do for a living every single day. Plus, who else besides world powers could pull off elaborate, ritual sacrifices like these annually?
Assange would be all-too-happy to try and dismantle this system of government - and he'd likely come to regret learning about it in the first place. Apart from the army of nightmare creatures the facility sits upon, there's the little matter of the Ancient Ones lurking even deeper beneath the surface. One has to question what good he'd be doing by stirring up trouble here, but given how the film ends, his intervention probably wouldn't amount to much.
Assange would have his hands full tackling any one of these groups, much less all ten of them, but even this list only scratches the surface. There are many, many other secret agencies that litter the landscape of both television and film which would be well worth his time and energy to pry into; perhaps Norsefire from V For Vendetta, or Sector 7 from the Transformers series.
So sound off in the comments section and let us know what covert operations in movies and TV you'd like WikiLeaks to expose! Are they straight-up villains who need to be brought to justice, like M.A.D. from Inspector Gadget? Or are they more lawful, like the I.M.F. from Mission Impossible?
In the meantime, you can prepare yourself for Bill Condon's film by watching the most recent featurette and the theatrical trailer.
The Fifth Estate is now playing in theaters.